Northeast eyes joint disaster strategy

Northeast eyes joint disaster strategy

Provinces coordinate over floods, droughts

Twenty provincial governors in the Northeast have proposed the whole region takes a fresh look at its chronic problems with flooding and droughts.

Instead of having each province approach the annual cycles separately, the new plan will "consider the bigger picture", deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong said after listening to the governors' proposal in a meeting on Monday.

The region, which covers more than 168,00 square kilometres (about one-third of the country), is divided into three parts -- upper, middle and lower Northeast.

Under the plan, officials in these three subregions will work with the Office of National Water Resources (ONWR) to draft joint solutions to water problems.

"Today we have to talk seriously about how to prevent flooding and ensure each province has enough water all year round," ACM Prajin said after the meeting.

The government has already initiated projects to solve floods and droughts in the region by building more kaem ling (monkey cheek) water-retention areas, weirs and irrigation systems.

"These projects are scheduled to be completed between 2021 and 2022," ACM Prajin said, adding they must go together with an adequate water management plan.

Other projects to develop farmland, fisheries, transportation and tourism in the region are also being pushed ahead in a similar manner.

"We want to emphasise the networks and connections between groups of provinces. All of them have to work as a team," ACM Prajin said.

In a related story, officials are mobilising efforts to deal with overflow from rivers and lakes which threatens to worsen flooding in provinces adjacent to the Mekong River.

Huge amounts of water have been flowing into Nong Han Lake in Sakon Nakhon, which is now above capacity and overflowing into the Kam River which runs along a distance of 120km towards the Mekong River in heavily flooded Phanom Nakhon.

However, the Kam River may be too small to hold the deluge, according to the latest inspection by a team led by Gen Thong Sarasuk, chief of the Armed Forces Development Command.

At present, the floodgates at the Kam River can discharge water into the Mekong River at a rate of 13 million cubic metres of water a day, but this is much lower than water runoff from Nong Han which is now flowing into the Kam River at 20 million cu/m, officials said.

On Monday, the water level in the Mekong River was measured at 13.38 metres in Nakhon Phanom's Sri Songkhram district, which was still above the critical level of 12.5 metres, officials said.

The strong-flowing current in the Mekong River also prompted Lao officials to ask ferry operators to stop their services between Mukdahan in Thailand and Savannakhet in Laos for safety reasons for the time being.

In Yasothon, people were told to brace for overflow from the Chi River, which will receive runoff from Roi Et and the Lam Pao dam in Kalasin.

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